Trump just gave Mayor Pete the boot.
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“Alfred E. Neuman cannot become president of the United States,” he said, in a new phone interview proving his gift for defining his adversaries in the most effective of ways.
Neuman, the famously nerdy youth from the cover of untold issues of Mad Magazine, perfectly represents the cheesy and overserious Buttigieg, whose even more corny and self-regarding Beltway supporters see him as the perfect foil against Trump.
Boasting a laundry list of meritocratic achievements, plus a stint in the safest and most direct military pathway to political office (naval intelligence), Buttigieg hasn’t done much as mayor of South Bend, Indiana than impress his elders from Washington to Silicon Valley. He screams potential, just the way they like it.
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And in a twist, Mayor Pete is also a very out gay man—married, at that, with a child entering the picture just in time for the election season.
Many Americans are just not interested in a president proudly kissing a man after high profile events, much less raising a child with him in the White House.
But Trump has bypassed that line of attack—for now—going instead with the more universal theme of childish inexperience. Trump, no spring chicken, wants Americans to think of a goofy boy when they see Buttigieg, not an adult in his vigorous prime.
Doubtless Trump has also calculated that it is a big waste of time trying to persuade voters with a strong opinion on Buttigieg’s homosexuality one way or the other. If you love it, you probably see him as a hero; if you don’t, he’s probably off the table for you regardless of what your options are…
Still, the true genius of Trump’s latest moniker is the way it screws with Buttigieg’s narrative about his place in history.
Mayor Pete has already tried to poke fun at Trump by saying he didn’t know Neuman and had to look him up online. But with Neuman Trump is strongly suggesting that Buttigieg is not an emissary of a progressive future but a buttoned-down and obsolete past.
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Trump is saying that he himself is the future, despite his advanced age and old school ways. Those ways have fresh relevance to a tough new world without orderly rules and people who play nice.
Mayor Pete, Trump is saying, belongs to an outmoded time when do-gooder overachievers could expect to have success handed to them like a blue ribbon at the Dog Show, their lives neatly mapped out in every detail.
That world is dead, says Trump, and to forge ahead people like Alfred E. Neuman belong to an unserious fantasy world.
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They are, in a word, a joke.
Yuck it up, Mr. Mayor.